From forest trails to pretty riverside villages, read more about our favourite day trips from Paris.
When talking about day trips from Paris, many might say ‘why would you want to leave beloved Paris in the first place?’ Even if you know the classic sites of the city already, Paris always has so many secret quartiers and quirky aspects to discover, as well as its honeypot hangout spots. But with nearby forests, hiking trails, cultural heritage gems and riverfront villages, pourquoi pas? Here are some of our favourite day trips from Paris by train, so you can always get back to the capital quickly and easily. Absence makes the heart grow fonder anyway.
Take the train to Fontainebleau in just 40 mins and go walking or cycling through its famous ‘Bleau’ groves. With over a 1000 sq km of them, it’s not surprising that Fontainebleau has national forest status in France. Hire a bike in the town and cycle independently, or join one of many guided tours from the town. Fontainebleau is also the bouldering go-to place, with British enthusiasts heading to ‘Font’, as it is often called in English, donning crashmat backpacks and a hearty sense of adventure.
It’s just an hour from Paris to Chartres by train, a city that has been a place of sacred pilgrimage for centuries, boasting one of the most magnificent 12th-century cathedrals in France. However, there are many other reasons to visit Chartres, which is still peppered with medieval buildings. Such as the Loëns granary building, now home to a stained glass museum. Or the Fine Arts Museum which is located in the 12th century Episcopal Palace.
Located on the River Eure, walk along the waterfront past medieval half-timbered houses, or explore further out of town along the river, with easy to access hiking and cycling trails. As well as some elegant gardens, such as Jardins de l'Evéché (bishop’s gardens), which are attached to Saint-André church, and with somewhat heavenly views out along the river.
Towns that inspired artists
Top of the list of French towns that inspired famous artists is Giverny, home to Claude Monet who lived here between 1883 and his death in 1926. Take a train to Vernon and then a shuttle bus from outside the station. Monet’s own gardens are the picture perfect place to sit and reflect on the work of the great artist, and you can even capture a glimpse of them from the train before you get into Vernon. It is closed during winter months, but open end March until end October. Don't miss the town's Musée des Impressionnismes either. You can also take the train to Auvers-sur-Oise, just 30km from Paris which inspired, most famously, Van Gogh as well as Charles-François Daubigny, Paul Cézanne and Camille Pissarro. Services from Paris to Auvers-sur-Oise only run at weekends between April and November. So put it in the planner to see this Impressionist idyll of a town.
Fine art forays
Serious art aficionados have some beaux art beauties within easy day trip distance from Paris. Such as La Piscine in Roubaix, although this is actually closer to Lille by train. La Piscine is considered one of France’s most important collections of 19th and 20th-century paintings, sculptures and textiles, all housed in a work of art in its own right - a former art deco swimming pool, most recently renovated in 2018. You will feel as if you have dived into the deep end of French fine art here and you won’t want to come out.
Rouen’s Museum of Fine Arts can also be reached in 1 hr 40 mins from Paris, still leaving you all day to take in its world-renowned collections from the great schools of art, including the Impressionist greats.
Creamy and dreamy, Chantilly is around half an hour from Paris by train, with chateaux, landscaped gardens, parkland and forest trails to rival the very touristy Versailles option. It still gets busy in summer, however if you head here mid-week you will have acres to explore toute seule, not least in Chantilly Forest, where ancient limes and pines were once the domain of hunting aristocrats. Horse lovers won’t want to miss the town’s 18th century Great Stables, which are like an equestrian palace really.
Reims is the capital of the Champagne region and just 50 mins from Paris by train. Reims is also the ‘grand cru’ of French sacred architecture, its gothic cathedral dominating the heart of the city. This is where members of French royalty were once crowned and where, today, contemporary art lovers go to revere the Marc Chagall stained glass windows, as well as the town’s Museum of Fine Arts. Sip Champagne at local bars, take the train to nearby Epernay, a town touched on all sides by vineyards or visit the Musée des Métiers du Champagne in Ay.
For light-headedness of a different kind, hire a bike in Reims and head out along the city’s green route (coulée verte) to nearby Montagne de Reims Natural Park, with over 500 sq km of vineyards, ancient villages and forest trails.
Read everything you need to know about travel to France on board Eurostar, with all your questions answered. You may also enjoy our blogs on Bordeaux, top cycling trails in France, Renaissance by rail and wild swimming in France by train.
Photo credits top to bottom: Fontainbleau Forest ©Razvan, Monet's garden ©iShootPhotosLLC, Chartres Cathedral iStock ©Razvan, La Piscine Roubaix Flickr Commons ©Jean-Pierre Dalbéra,
Dom Perignon iStock ©stocknshares
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